Saturday night – 03/29/2014

We had a full house this week which is always a treat, and a challenge. In the process of preparing dinner I think I used every bowl we own, 2 Dutch ovens, a stock pot, the tea kettle and a non-stick saute pan that has seen better non-stick days. Everything came out pretty much as expected and was well received so I’m happy with the results.

Vegetable Curry
Sauteed Chicken Strips
Yellow Rice
Kale and White Beans (roughly based on this recipe)

Fruit Salad (for dessert)

Notes under the cut


Hermits were a regular part of the snack rotation of my childhood. I suspect, like so many recipes from that time, it came from the back of a box or can of something. My guess is the corn syrup, or maybe the flour. In any event they are delicious and remind me of simpler times.

This recipe is based on one from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

Servings: 15-20 bars
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes (plus cooling time)


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups currants


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 13″x9″ baking pan with vegetable spray. (see notes)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (the first 6) in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
  3. Add the oil, molasses, corn syrup, water, milk and eggs in the bowl of stand mixer. Beat until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until mixed.
  4. Add the flour in 3 installments, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Remove from the mixer, scrap the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir in the raisins.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared 13″x9″ pan. Allow it to settle into the pan in a (fairly) even layer.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
  7. Cut the hermits while still warm. Store leftovers (ha) in a ziptop bag.

I made a sling of sorts in the pan with a piece of pre-cut parchment paper that is sized for a half sheet pan. I sprayed the bottom and sides of the pan then laid the parchment into the pan to form an U. The spray on the bottom helps the parchment to stay in place while you spread the batter. When the cake was ready for serving I ran a knife along the edges not covered with parchment and lifted the entire cake from the pan with no fuss.

The original recipe called for “dark” raisins, whatever those are. We prefer currants over raisins anyway so it was an easy substitution.

Salsa Baked Chicken

This is a quick and easy variation on the standard baked boneless, skinless chicken breast. The salsa adds a bit of additional flavor to what is often a bland hunk of meat. The leftovers make excellent chicken salad as well.

Salsa Baked Chicken
Servings: 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Rest time: 30 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes


  • 8boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar prepared salas
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper


  1. Trim excess fat and odd bits of meat from the chicken breasts. Give the thick bit a whack with the palm of your hand to flatten it a bit.
  2. Toss the chicken breasts and about 1 cup of salsa in a large ziptop bag. Seal the bag and squish the chicken in the salsa to thoroughly coat. Stash it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Pile the chicken rests preheat the oven to 375°F.
  3. Lightly oil the bottom of two (2) 13″x9″ glass baking dishes. Transfer 4 chicken breast to each dish leaving space around each breast. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the breasts along with a few grinds of black pepper.
  4. Place both dishs on the same oven rack and bake for 25-30 minutes. The chicken should have reached 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  5. Transfer to a warmed platter. Serve with the remaining salsa as a sauce.

To convert cooked salsa chicken into chicken salad, finely dish a cooked chicken breast and toss it in a bowl. Add a finely diced shallot, about 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard and about a 1/4 cup of mayonnaise. Stir well to combine. Eat as is or on buttered toast in sandwich form.

Saturday night – 03/22/2014

Whenever our vegetarian friend is away we try to make something meat-centric or, as we say at home, meat-integrated. I was a bit stumped because I had recently used pasta and rice as part of Saturday night dinner and wasn’t sure where to go with a casserole or stew. So I flipped through various cook books until I found something that interested me for a main dish. It seemed a bit lacking in the vegetable department so I added some carrots, with bacon. Both items were a big hit.

Pozole (Pork and Hominy in a Mexican-style)
Glazed Carrots with Bacon
Ted bread

Oatmeal Cookies

Notes under the cut

Red Curry Shrimp and Peas

Here’s a taste of (Americanized) Thai food in your own kitchen. Yeah, that sounds a bit cheesy. Honestly this is just a simple combination of a handful of ingredients that can have a big impact. Plus, it comes together quickly so it is great on a crazy weeknight. I think it took longer for the rice to cook than it did to complete this dish.

Red Curry Shrimp

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Saturday night – 03/15/2014

It started with the mac and cheese. The menu that is. Ted makes a really tasty version and I wanted some. We also had a couple of butternut squashes gathering dust in the hall closet. And as with most weeks the protein was determined by what was on sale at Ye Olde Grocery Chain, with a little variation for varieties sake. I think it went surprisingly well together.

As for the blondies, well, the lack of leftovers speaks volumes.

Salsa Baked Chicken
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Butternut Squash with Baby Spinach, Cranberries and Pecans


Notes under the cut

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

This cake is a riff on one my dad really enjoyed and that my family always called Bob’s Chocolate Cake. That recipe, handed down by my great grandmother to my dad, is delicious in memory and short on instructions. This one seeks to fill in some of the gaps in that recipe.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes plus time to cool


  • 5 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 13″x9″ aluminum pan with baking spray.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
  3. Combine chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat at 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until butter and chocolate is combined. Add the espresso powder and combine.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla to the bowl. Beat until well blended.
  5. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches and mix to combine in between each addition.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pan 180° halfway through baking.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then remove from pan and fully cool before frosting.

My family frosts almost every cake with a simple butter and powdered sugar icing. We tinted this one orange for no real reason other than white seemed a little boring.

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach

This dish is a weeknight pantry/fridge raid with a package of shelf-stable gnocchi providing the starting point.

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45


  • 1.5 lbs. Italian sweet sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. Penzeys Mural Of Flavor (see note)
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. potato gnocchi
  • 1 6 oz. bag spinach, rinsed and spun
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish


  1. Place sausages and 1/2 cup water in a lidded skillet and heat over medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes; cook until internal temp reaches 160°F. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile heat a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi according to the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  3. Dump out excess water from the skillet and wipe skillet dry. Return skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions along with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to coat and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrants. Add the red pepper flakes and spice blend. Stir to incorporate and bloom the spices.
  4. Add the spinach along with the reserved pasta water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. The spinach will wilt down to less than a cup in volume.
  5. While the spinach cooks slice the sausages into bite-size pieces.
  6. When the spinach is fully cooked add the sausages and gnoochi. Toss to combine. Cover and cook long enough to reheat sausages.
  7. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Penzeys Mural Of Flavor is one of my favorite spice blends. If you don’t have it you could substitute 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp. ground coriander and 1/4 tsp. dried citrus peel.

I prefer to boil the potato gnocchi for a little longer than the package recommends. In my case the package said 2 minutes in boiling water. At that point they were warmed through but still a little dense for my taste. An extra minute made them a little lighter and less chewy.

Saturday night – 03/08/2014

It was a crazy fun time this past Saturday night. The daughter of two Saturday night irregulars was doing an experiment for school and needed willing test subjects. Where better to find them than on a Saturday afternoon at our house. While the expanded gang were rated on distracted driving Ted and I watched small people and cooked up much food.

Chili – meated and vegetarian with sour cream and cheese
Buttered orzo
Green salad with zucchini and radishes
Fruit salad
Corn bread

Chocolate sour cream cake with butter cream frosting

Notes under the cut

Blueberry Gingerbread Snack Cake

Ted does most of the dessert baking for our Saturday night gatherings. This week though he had other plans so I used the opportunity to try a recipe I had bookmarked (like in a real book) some time ago. The gingerbread flavor was pretty subtle here so perhaps my ground ginger was a little old, or maybe more was needed. Still it made a lot of tasty cake.

This recipe is from of The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.
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